First, I apologize for the lateness of this review (and for the shortness of it). I was busy writing my new James Wolk biography. Second, I liked and disliked different aspects of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s mid-season finale.
In essence, "The Bridge" did what I expected it to; it circled back around to the Centipede storyline that was originally introduced via J. August Richard's character, Mike Peterson, in the pilot. Three super soldiers broke a former Marine out of prison using their super strength, which automatically made S.H.I.E.L.D.'s spidey-sense tingle. It was, of course, discovered that these men had been altered with Extremis, and just like that we were talking about the main story arc again. The marine in question was the same man Raina was seen talking to at the end of "Girl in the Flower Dress." Naturally, the mission was to find these men, the marine, and the girl in the flower dress and find out what was up with the Centipede storyline once and for all.
Coulson decided to bring Peterson, who's been training with S.H.I.E.L.D. ever since he nearly destroyed Union Station, on board as extra support for this mission. Fighting fire with fire and all that jazz. I was all for this development, because I love Richards, and because it livened up the series a bit. But unfortunately, despite being the overarching Big Bad story for the entire season, we've really only scratched the surface of what this Centipede story even is. We're 10 episodes into Season 1 and I feel like we've made little to no progress on what should be one of the driving forces for the series. They're banging us over the head with Coulson's mysterious secret week after week, not to mention Skye's parentage mystery, but when it comes to the Centipede storyline, which affects all of the characters, not just Coulson or Skye, we only get an episode every once in awhile. That's not the best way to keep or grow an audience. And frankly, it's hurting the series a bit.
Who is behind the Centipede program? How can we stop them? Why do they need super soldiers? What are they planning on doing with the super soldiers? These are all questions we're supposed to care about and demand answers to, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn't done a very good job of making viewers care about them. As it stands, Centipede and the Girl in the Flower Dress are kind of just a recurring pain in the ass. If they're such a global threat, why not, I don't know, treat them as one?
I don't subscribe to the idea that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should abandon all of the procedural elements of the series and stick to deeply serialized storytelling, but if the writers were to merge the two formats a bit more, the series would definitely succeed on more levels. And I think it would make the Centipede story feel more like the Big Bad story it's supposed to be. Right now the series is still at 85 percent procedural, 15 percent serialized. Skye's search for her parents is obviously important to her (or at least it was until May basically told her to grow the eff up and get over it), but is it more important to the overall success of the series than the season-long arc? The search for her parents definitely lends itself to character development, but only dedicating one out of every five episodes to the overarching story has definitely hurt the momentum of the series. And its created a weak, slightly mysterious enemy that no one cares much about.
All of that being said, I commend the series for Mike's ultimate betrayal of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the episode's final moments (even if he did attempt to right that wrong five minutes later). Because what I thought was going to be a mind-numbing ending to the mid-season finale—Mike's son is kidnapped and now he has to turn himself over in order to secure his safety—turned out to be a nice surprise when it was revealed that they didn't want Mike (whose powers had been stabilized by the gun FitzSimmons created in the pilot), but Coulson.
The episode zigged when I thought it would zag, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't really a zigging kind of series. So bravo, S.H.I.E.L.D. writers, you snuck one by me. As setup episodes go, "The Bridge" was all right. Not great, but not bad either. But I don't think it needed to be great to be successful in its goals. Because now I find myself asking all kinds of questions, where as I was mostly just watching and reacting to the characters for the last few episodes (don't think I've forgotten about Handsome and May's one/tenth told backstories either, because I haven't, and I still want more). But now I've become involved in the story once again.
Why do they want Coulson? Who wants Coulson? Is it because they know about his supposed resurrection, cloning, magical recuperation in Tahiti? Do they just want hotel recommendations? Or do they want to use him as leverage for something else? Coulson is suddenly interesting again in the wake of his kidnapping. And the Centipede storyline is interesting, and a big plot point, for the first time all season. I hope this means the series will be taking a more in depth look at this storyline when it returns. And that it isn't wrapped up in a neat bow within an episode. Keeping Coulson separated from the rest of the team for a little while is a good idea, because everyone will have to step up their game and become their own leaders (I foresee more of Handsome's backstory in our near future). And because the series really needed this push to break out of their one-and-done stories. Like I said, don't abandon the procedural elements, but better integrate the serialized ones, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be better off.
– May's reaction to Skye's search for her birth parents leads me to believe the growing theory that she's either A) the agent who brought her in, or B) her mother. I don't particularly like either of those, because zzzzzzz.
– Fitz and Simmons, I enjoyed your very silly reaction to Peterson, but I don't fully understand it. Did you both lose your brains? I know the last time you saw him he was ripping apart train stations and talking about wanting to be a hero, but you weren't this frazzled or enamored by him then.
– Were the explosions at the end really necessary?
– I need this May and Handsome stuff to go away, because I fear we're headed for more-than-just-sex territory and you know how I feel about that.
– The kill switch is back in action this week, which makes me never want to have a kill switch in my brain.
AIRED ON 12/8/2015
Season 3 : Episode 10